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Mayor Walsh Announces Winning Projects of Youth-Focused Participatory Budget Vote

June 10, 2016

Mayor's Office

Published by:

Mayor's Office

Third Year of Youth Participation Serves as a National Model

BOSTON - Friday, June 10, 2016 - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the winning projects of the Youth Lead the Change vote. This year's vote, in which young Bostonians ages 12-25 decided how to allocate $1 million of the City of Boston Capital Budget, is the third time the City has engaged young residents in the budgetary process, and is the first initiative of its kind in the nation.

"Youth Lead the Change creates a process to share City budgeting decisions with young people all over Boston," said Mayor Walsh. "Young people are working together, polling their peers, and addressing the issues that matter most to them. In addition to empowering young people today, we are cultivating a generation of Boston youth who are not only passionate and progressive, but also have the tools and knowledge to shape the future."

The Mayor's Youth Council partnered with youth organizations to write the rules and oversee the implementation of the process.  Voting polls were stationed at local train stations, youth centers and school buildings slated for the city-wide vote. 4,482 eligible votes came in from Boston's youngest populations. This year, young people conducted extra outreach in order to engage LGBTQ youth, homeless youth, undocumented residents and court or gang involved youth.

"Youth Lead the Change shows that we're not too young to make a difference in our community. It's a chance for us to participate in democracy and learn how the city works," said John Fiumara, a young person hired to facilitate this process. "Now, I understand the stages an idea has to go through before it becomes a reality. I thought city employees would just say 'yes' or 'no' to our ideas, but I was surprised how many times they said 'we're already doing that' or 'let's figure this out together'."

Youth Lead the Change (YLC) is managed by the Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) Division of Youth Engagement & Employment in close collaboration with a steering committee comprised of 18 community and youth serving organizations. The Participatory Budgeting Project facilitates the implementation of participatory budgeting nationwide, and works closely with Youth Lead the Change.

"At a time when Americans are deeply divided, participatory budgeting brings thousands of people together to improve their communities and transform our democracy," said Josh Lerner, Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project, the nonprofit leading the growth of participatory budgeting in North America. "Youth Lead the Change in Boston expands the opportunities for young people to lead.  As the first youth participatory budgeting process in North America, YLC is inspiring cities across the Country."

An event last night in the City Hall Mezzanine recognized the youth participants and their budget ideas. Felix Arroyo, Boston's Chief of Health & Human Services, welcomed the crowd of over 125 youth plus many adults.   Also showcased at the event were products and business models designed by teens from 20 BCYF community centers as part of the Youth Ventures Project, a partnership with the United Way. The teens held a showcase to demonstrate and sell their products and had the opportunity to make a "pitch" to a panel for the chance to win a $10,000 grant to continue and expand their business. The businesses selected to be funded were the BCYF Ohrenberger Community Center's citywide online calendar/event website and the BCYF Paris and Pino Community Centers' ReRunz thrift shop which donates clothing to families in need. Each project will receive $10,000.   The winning Youth Lead the Change projects are:

$500,000.00 - Parks are for Everyone Up to 10 new park renovations will have inclusive play elements for people with disabilities in Dorchester, South End, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale;  

$135,000.00 - Job and Resource Finder App Will create an app that lets teens find jobs, programs, free events, and scholarships citywide;  

$150,000.00 - Wicked Free Wifi 3.0 Will bring internet to sidewalks and bus stops in key locations across Boston citywide;  

$100,000.00 - Link Up: Digital Billboards in Schools Will install TV screens in schools that display information about jobs, programs, and other resources for students;  

$80,000.00 - More Trash Cans and Recycling Bins Will install newer trash cans and recycling bins to make our neighborhoods cleaner in Mattapan, Dorchester, Roxbury;  

$25,000.00 - Sunshine and Books Will develop an app to make it easy to find outdoor study spaces in parks across Boston.

Last year, young people voted to fund four winning projects that expanded the Hubway bicycle system, expanded the City's Wicked Free Wi-Fi system, installed water bottle refill systems at City parks and renovated Boston Latin Academy's gymnasium.  Youth Lead the Change will launch its fourth cycle in September with a call for steering committee members. To learn more about Youth Lead the Change, visit or contact the BCYF Division of Youth Engagement and Employment at 617-635-4202.